OLYMPIA -- Unions representing trades, crafts, law enforcement, firefighters and other government workers brought some 7,000 protesters to the Capitol Friday for more than an hour of speeches and exhortations.
Hundreds of them then marched into the rotunda and through the halls outside the legislative chambers, led by the bagpipes and drums of the Pierce County Firefighters Pipes and Drums unit playing "Greenhills" and "Amazing Grace." They shouted, they chanted, they cheered.
But the thing they want most -- a state budget for 2011-13 that gets some extra money from closed tax exemptions rather than relying strictly on cuts -- will likely elude them.
The House of Representatives is set to begin debate on a $32 billion budget proposal from Democrats that closes no tax exemptions, and relies solely on cuts. A Republican alternative, which cuts some programs like Basic Health and the Disability Lifeline even more severely, is not expected to be introduced on the floor.
Gary Swartz, a union machinist from Spokane who works at the Triumph factory on the West Plains, said the trip was worth it none the less. A political director for his local, Swartz said he would still meet with Democratic legislators from the 3rd District after the rally, even though he suspected they'll tell them there aren't the votes to pass any tax increases.
The chanting, sign-carrying crowd fill the steps of the Capitol and the Temple of Justice to the north, and the green space in between, serves as a message and "We've got to keep the pressure on."
Mike Fleming, another Triumph machinist who was attending his first such rally, agreed it was worth the day off work without pay: "I'd do it again."